Alumni Spotlight, Patricia Ann Glatfelter, Class of 1976Feb 25, 2021
Our small class of 32 student in the basement classroom of the Medical School on Colorado Blvd in 1976 by necessity, matured together. We moved desks out of the way to pull out treatment tables for the hands-on practice of clinical techniques. The teaching staff were incredibly supportive. After my first gross anatomy quiz (which I flunked), I volunteered to abdicate my place in the class to a more capable applicant. Dr. James Clinkingbeard, who chaired the program, took me to the cadaver lab and pointed to various structures to have me identify them. I passed the test 100%. He counseled me to overcome my test anxiety and assured me I would be one of the best graduates of the year. His support made a profound difference in my confidence. I later found out I had one of the highest scores on the state board exams of the PT class that year. Utter shock was my response!
What inspired you to attend CU?
I was inspired to attend CU because my mother had a prolonged course of treatment in the early 1960’s for cancer and subsequent paraplegia at CU Medical center. Physical therapy was the only aspect of her medical care in which she felt she could actively participate. Physical therapy gave her hope when the prognosis was grim. Despite loathing mathematics, chemistry and physics, I knew physical therapy was where I belonged. I slogged through the hurdles to complete my prerequisites. When I appeared before the interview board to seal my fate for acceptance into the program, a physical therapist who had treated my mom for her paraplegia rehab recognized my name and remembered me as a young child attending sessions with my mom. She said “Well, I guess you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
Tell me about your career and why you chose this career path?
There were many profound experiences in my pt career. I worked primarily in rural communities so I had to draw on all the specialty areas that are provided in the basic physical therapy curriculum. It was especially important for me to pursue continuing education throughout my career so I could be prepared for whoever appeared at my doorstep. I treated newborns in the NICU to the elderly in skilled nursing. I treated professional triathletes and injured loggers and commercial fishermen in northern California. My practice settings included hospitals, rehab centers, an outpatient private practice with 7 partners for almost 30 years and consultation to the United Indian Health Service. I never had a boring day. My proudest professional moments span from treating a 6 month old child with cerebral palsy that I thought would never achieve sitting balance who later became a maintenance worker at the local golf course, to guiding a professional triathlete from his earliest days in the sport to becoming the world’s #1 short course triathlete. He succeeded with minimal injuries or lost training days in his rise to the top. It earned my 5 minutes of fame on ABC’s Wide World of Sports coverage of the Hawaii Iron Man.
Tell me more about "Patty’s PT Tips"
In my retirement I continue to utilize my pt skills by teaching a Zoom class of “Patty’s PT Tips” for the Multiple Sclerosis Alliance of Southern Colorado. After living with multiple sclerosis myself for 30 years, I am able to share both my personal and professional experience with my fellow MSers. I share what other medical professionals have taught me as well as incorporate my own real-life experiences and adaptations that can create a basis for a more fulfilling life with a chronic neurological disease. Life with and without MS has provided a never-ending learning opportunity to share failures and successes.
What do you do for fun?
Today I continue to enjoy the natural wonders of Colorado from my home near the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument. I participate in the Friends of Florissant Board of Directors and learn more about geology and paleontology all the time. I occasionally utilize my pt skills while trekking my way on the trails. When I find a fellow hiker with a gait deviation I can’t resist coaching. When I return to traveling by plane I will continue to be entertained by watching fellow travelers wobble through the concourse while I analyze their gait and play “name the diagnosis” with my husband. Once a PT—always a PT!